Gut health plays an important role in overall wellness – especially considering 80 percent of the body’s immune system is located in the gut. Unfortunately, digestive health issues plague much of the population, causing symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal bloating.
In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that approximately 10-15 percent of the American adult population suffers with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), for which mainstream medicine has no cure – only symptomatic solutions.
The key to protecting gut health, however, is in maintaining the careful balance of good yeast and bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system. Prebiotics are digestion-resistant fibers that help feed and nurture these ‘friendly’ microorganisms, providing them with a hospitable environment in which to thrive. Here, we list 6 prebiotic foods that are naturally supportive of gut health and digestion.
Prebiotic foods high in fructooligosaccharides (FOS)
Fructooligosccharides are naturally occurring prebiotic sugars that have been shown to facilitate healthy bowel movements and in one study, improve constipation in elderly patients. FOS is, by far, the most commonly occurring prebiotic and can be found in the following foods:
Raw chicory root – The greatest source of prebiotic fiber, raw chicory root is nearly 65 percent prebiotic fiber by weight.
Raw Jeruselem artichoke – Another food high in prebiotic fiber, raw Jeruselem artichoke is a species of sunflower native to North America.
Dandelion greens – which mix easily into salads, are another food rich in prebiotics.
Garlic – is not only flavorful, but it is also a tasty source of prebiotics.
Onion – Though raw onion is best, cooked onion is also a good source of prebiotics and an easy food to incorporate into a daily diet.
Bananas – perhaps the most convenient source of prebiotics, have lower quantities of FOS than other foods. However, they are easy to eat on-the-go and a popular choice among picky eaters and children.
Other foods also contain prebiotics, including fermented dairy products. Kefir, yogurt and buttermilk, for example, contain galacto-oligosaccardes (GOS) – another type of prebiotic.
How do prebiotics support digestion?
Prebiotics not only support healthy probiotic balance in the intestines, but these foods also have been shown to prevent traveler’s diarrhea and improve the absorption of nutrients in aging individuals – particularly absorption of calcium and iron. They are also a primary means of treating IBS, especially in combination with probiotics.
In addition, prebiotics may help eliminate cholesterol from the GI tract, ultimately improving cardiovascular health.
The need for prebiotic support only increases with age, as the populations of ‘good’ bacteria decline. It is a lack of healthy bacteria that puts older people at higher risk of developing gastrointestinal health disorders versus children and young adults. By consuming plenty of prebiotics, helpful bacteria can flourish within the intestines, maintaining balance and promoting gut health.